Palembang in the 1950s: The Making and Unmaking of a Region
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My dissertation examines complex socioeconomic issues surrounding the postcolonial transition in Indonesia by focusing on the history of Palembang and the discourse of the "region" in 1950s' Indonesia. By examining these issues, this dissertation shows that Palembang in the 1950s was volatile and indicative of a more complex local and transnational context, and that the history of the regions outside Java cannot be confined within state boundaries or the logic of regionalism. It also discusses how the central government's efforts to integrate regions into a state were initially challenged and then eventually accepted throughout the decade. Chapter one conceptualizes the "region" in geographical, philosophical, and political senses by suggesting the dual meaning of the region. It also introduces the early histories and cityscapes of Palembang and the importance of the city in the relationship between the "center" (Jakarta) and the region in the 1950s. Chapter two highlights the international economic orientations of Palembang in the 1950s, by analyzing rubber smuggling to Singapore. The blurry line between legal and illegal trade, the role of Chinese traders, and the ethnicization of smuggling will be discussed. Chapter three explores the petroleum industry and its influence on the society, with a focus on labor movements. The relationship between labor union and political parties, between union and companies, and between regional branches and the headquarters in Jakarta show that the 1950s were not just a period of diversity, but also a period of increasing state control and centralization. Chapter four explores the politics of building roads and the Musi Bridge in Palembang as symbols of modernization and development in the late 1950s and 1960s. The concluding chapter, chapter five, discusses the discourse and the process of "regional development" and the making of regional identities, and examines how they reflect the state's hegemony and the complex integration of the regional into the national.
- History